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Note on sexual selection

Note on sexual selection

Catalogue number: WP7/64(3)

Note about Wallace's views on sexual selection, dated December 1892.

This article has been ripped from the journal Natural Science, (volume 1, page 546, December 1892). Wallace writes a response to a Mr Cunningham who had reviewed Mr Romane's work 'Darwin, and after Darwin', and had previously made a comment on Wallace's views on sexual selection.

Wallace did not agree with Darwin on the theory of sexual selection (a theory that says, for example, a peacock has ornate tail feathers to encourage a female to choose him as a mate). In this article Wallace says the weakness in this theory is that females have a very limited range of choice. '...Combat, or agility, or bodily vigour must have great influence, the part that remains to be played by ornament alone will be very small, even if it were proved, which it is not, that a slight superiority in ornament alone usually determines the choice of a mate.'

Wallace suggests experimental methods that could prove sexual selection, for example by cutting off some tail feathers of pheasants and observing whether the hens reject these males. 'Till this is done, suppositions as to what determines the choice of the female can have but little value.' Wallace wanted to test everything, and suggesting an experiment to investigate sexual selection shows his thorough approach to science.

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